After being released in Muse's native England last September, Absolution was hailed as "the U.K. rock record of the year" by Britain's influential New Musical Express. Buoyed by such critical acclaim, the CD arrived in the U.S. this spring, and it largely lives up to the hype. Muse's third disc (but only the group's second to be released in the States) finds this alt-rock trio, consisting of childhood friends from the small Devon town of Teignmouth, brimming with musical intensity and apocalyptic musings. "This is the end of the world," wails singer-guitarist-keyboardist Matthew Bellamy, the band's sole lyricist, on the dramatic opener "Apocalypse Please." The spooky sense of foreboding doesn't stop there. On the single "Time Is Running Out," with its ominous bass line and jagged guitars, Bellamy sings, "You will be the death of me," while the eerie, epic "Butterflies and Hurricanes" signals that "your number has been called." All of this gloom and doom might become tiresome if it were not for Muse's potent musical assault, with Bellamy backed up by Chris Wolstenholme on bass and Dominic Howard on drums. At times they call to mind Radiohead and early U2, while doing a Queen-like rock-opera take on the baroque "Blackout," with Bellamy doing his best Freddie Mercury turn.